Lakers have belief

Champs need to start winning without James and Davis to prove coach right

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram shooting a lay-up against Los Angeles Lakers forward Markieff Morris during the first half at Smoothie King Centre. The Pelicans beat the NBA champions 128-111.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram shooting a lay-up against Los Angeles Lakers forward Markieff Morris during the first half at Smoothie King Centre. The Pelicans beat the NBA champions 128-111.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW ORLEANS • Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel insisted that he has a roster capable of winning National Basketball Association (NBA) games even without stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

They just have not proven it.

The depleted champions were routed 128-111 by the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, losing their second straight after the announcing four-time NBA champion James will be out "indefinitely" after injuring an ankle.

The Lakers fell to a 7-10 win-loss record since being without Davis from Feb 14.

Their struggles, amid the trade deadline closing today, has heightened rumours that they could move for veteran guard George Hill of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers centre Andre Drummond.

But Vogel suggested that he is not expecting any changes. "I believe in the group that we have," he said. "We can win with this group."

They need to start soon after dropping to fourth (28-16) in the Western Conference. They are now just four games ahead of the seventh-placed San Antonio Spurs, and face Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia 76ers (31-13) next today.

Slipping to seventh would mean that they have to participate in the play-in tournament to make the play-offs.

"It's a challenge but it's not nothing that we can't overcome," Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said of returning to winning ways.

"We've just got to look at the drawing board, continue to trust each other, try to play for one another on both sides of the ball."

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, who was drafted by the Lakers in 2016 but traded away by the club in 2019, scored 36 points.

Zion Williamson added 27 as the hosts ended their seven-game losing streak against the Lakers.

New Orleans (19-24) won their second straight game despite the absence of point guard Lonzo Ball (hip flexor strain) for both games.

Montrezl Harrell had 18 points for the visitors while Kuzma contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds at the Smoothie King Centre.

In Portland, James Harden brushed off the absence of Brooklyn teammates Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to lead the Nets to a 116-112 victory.

Harden scored 25 points and had 17 assists as the Nets improved to 30-14 to remain hot on the heels of Philadelphia.

The Sixers were pushed all the way by a Golden State Warriors team missing the injured Stephen Curry before battling to a 108-98 win in San Francisco.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2021, with the headline 'Lakers have belief'. Subscribe